In September 2017, Governor Tom Wolf’s Middle-Class Task Force kicked off the first of six regional roundtables to hear from Pennsylvanians about how to improve the lives of hard-working, middle class families. The task force was made up of business, labor, education and workforce development experts. The overwhelming message that was heard was there are jobs available without trained people to fill them. As a result of the discussions, an initiative deemed “PAsmart” would become a part of the budget package which focuses on training for these in-demand jobs.
The commonwealth has a very diverse workforce. The same can be said of the training for the various fields. Often a four-year college degree is not necessary to satisfy the requirements for certain occupations. PAsmart is a $30 million investment that will get workers the education and experience they need:
- $7 million for Apprenticeships - Apprenticeship programs are sought by businesses to provide employees with industry-driven training to create a more productive, diverse, highly-skilled workforce and reduce employee turnover. In turn, workers and job seekers gain increased skills, and nationally recognized credentials to support future career advancement and increased wages.
The $7 million will go towards both traditional and non-traditional occupations, including youth pre-apprenticeship and registered apprenticeships at high school and career and technical centers, and encouraging businesses, community colleges and other higher education providers to expand registered apprenticeships and work-based learning experiences for adults.
Since the commonwealth’s first Apprenticeship and Training Office was established in 2016, the number of registered apprentices has increased by nearly 20 percent from 13,282 to 15,972 individuals statewide. By 2025, the governor has set a goal of increasing the number of workers with training after high school from 47 percent to 60 percent, as well as doubling the number of registered apprentices.
- $3 million increase for the Industry Partnership program within the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry – which connects similar businesses and industries with an educational and economic development public-private partnership to provide job training.
- $20 million for STEM and Computer Science Education – starting in kindergarten and going up to grade 12. The funding will also be used towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) trained educators.
The demand for job skills in STEM is rapidly growing. Currently, almost 300,000 jobs in the commonwealth require STEM skills which will grow to an estimated 700,000 this year. Over the next decade, seven in 10 jobs will require workers to use computers and have an understanding of new technologies.
Governor Wolf also signed an executive order that will improve coordination between several state agencies to more effectively deliver workforce development services to Pennsylvanians. The order places the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Board (PA WDB), the governor’s private sector policy advisor, in a leading role to coordinate job training strategies and establish stronger reporting policies. The departments of Labor and Industry, Education, Community and Economic Development, Agriculture and Human Services will be working together. The order also includes two additional state agencies – Departments of Aging and Corrections – to be added to the PA WDB so that older workers have more opportunities and can assist those reentering society find jobs.
The PA WDB is tasked with providing recommendations on the distribution of the $30 million in PAsmart funding, which will be driven out through a competitive grants process. Organizations that will be eligible to apply include: local education agencies; intermediate units; postsecondary institutions; local workforce development boards; public libraries; employers; labor organizations; chambers of commerce; after-school providers; education, training and workforce providers; nonprofits; community organizations, and others.
A one-size-fits-all approach has never been and will never be the way to keep moving Pennsylvania’s workforce forward. There are good paying middle class employment opportunities available with not enough qualified job seekers. PAsmart is an investment in our current and future economic viability. By bringing together labor, the technology sector, education and state government, the commonwealth is guaranteeing that Pennsylvania remains competitive in attracting the best employers and employees and attaining the newest technologies and industries.
Environmental Justice Public Participation Process
Last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced its intent to improve its approach to public participation in the permitting process in Environmental Justice Areas with changes that increase community involvement and clarify best practices by permit applicants to encourage community involvement. The updated approach is outlined in the 2018 draft Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy which can be viewed by clicking here.
The Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy is intended to be used by both permit applicants and affected communities as well as DEP to promote participation in the decision-making process. Among other changes, DEP proposes to determine Environmental Justice Areas based on census block groups, rather than tracts, to more accurately reflect population demographics. Block groups are the smallest geographic unit for which the Census Bureau publishes sample data, generally maintaining a population of 600-3,000 people.
Environmental justice communities are those where at least 20 percent of the residents live at or below the poverty line and/or at least 30 percent identifies as nonwhite minority, based on census data and federal poverty guidelines. Defining Environmental Justice Areas by census block groups increases the number of people who live in an Environmental Justice Area by 12 percent to include 32.5 percent of Pennsylvanians.
A new online map tool, the Environmental Justice Areas Viewer, has been developed to provide the public improved access to centralized geographic, demographic, and permitted-facilities data. Further development will continue, with plans for completion and training on using the viewer offered for community partners and the public later this year.
An outline of community input opportunities before and during a permit review and after a permit decision, as well as a flow chart of the steps in implementing the Public Participation Policy will help make the process easier. A further change enables DEP to enact the steps in the policy if a permit applicant is unable or unwilling to do so.
All are welcome to comment on the draft policy at https://www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/eComment/. The comment period opened July 14 and closes at 11:59 PM on August 28, 2018. Public input will be considered for potential incorporation into the final policy, to be finalized later this year.
DEP established an Office of Environmental Justice in 2002 to ensure communications with communities that did not always have a voice in environmental issues. The program seeks to ensure that all Pennsylvanians are equipped with the proper resources and opportunities to meaningfully participate in decision-making processes.
Attorney Allison Acevedo was named DEP Director of Environmental Justice earlier this month. The 15-member Environmental Justice Advisory Board represents the interests of citizens across the state in its advisory function to the DEP secretary.
The Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy was last updated in 2004.
Pollution Prevention, Energy Efficiency and Natural Resource Protection Grants
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has $1 million of grant funding available to Pennsylvania small businesses and farmers for pollution prevention, energy efficiency and natural resource protection projects through the Small Business Advantage grants. For the first time, grants will be available to farmers and ranchers for projects that reduce and prevent pollution on working lands.
Natural resource protection projects include the opportunity to plant riparian buffers, install streambank fencing to keep livestock out of streams, and agricultural storm water management projects, with the goal of reducing sediment and nutrient loads in our waterways.
Eligible projects are those that adopt or acquire equipment or processes that reduce energy use or pollution. Examples of eligible projects are HVAC and boiler upgrades, high-efficiency lighting, solvent recover and waste recycling systems, and auxiliary power units deployed as anti-idling technology for trucks.
Pennsylvania-based small business owners with 100 or fewer full-time employees are eligible. Projects must save the business a minimum of $500 and 25 percent annually in energy consumption, or pollution related expenses.
Businesses can apply for 50 percent matching funds of up to $9,500 to adopt or acquire energy-efficient or pollution prevention equipment or processes. Only costs incurred between July 20, 2018 and June 30, 2019 are eligible.
Applications will be considered on a first come, first served basis, and will be accepted until fiscal year 2018-19 funds are exhausted, or April 12, 2019, whichever occurs first.
All applications must be submitted through the Commonwealth’s Single Application for Assistance website which can be accessed by clicking here. Printed, faxed, and mailed applications will not accepted. The complete Grant Application package, which includes step-by-step instructions for completing the online application as well as all related forms, is available by visiting the DEP Small Business Ombudsman's Office website.
Did You Know…
Did you know that last year, 150 small businesses were awarded more than $953,000 in grants for their projects?
Honoring Our Veterans
With the summer days bringing increased travel, the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) suggests an Honoring Our Veterans license plate for your vehicle as a great way to show patriotism and also support veterans in need.
Available for passenger cars, motorcycles and light duty trucks up to 14,000 pounds, an Honoring Our Veterans license plate costs $35, with $15 dollars benefitting Pennsylvania’s Veterans’ Trust Fund (VTF). The VTF issues grants to statewide charitable organizations that aid veterans service organizations and county directors of veterans affairs. These valuable advocates use available grants to assist veterans in need of shelter and necessities of living, among other services.
In addition to the sales of these license plates, there are a number of other programs designed to help fund the VTF in support of Pennsylvania veterans. To learn more about other VTF programs or to purchase an Honoring Our Veterans license plate, visit www.vtf.pa.gov or visit one of my district offices for an application.
Brookline Breeze & Breezefest
The 37th annual Brookline Breeze 5K Run and Fitness Walk is scheduled for Saturday, August 11. The day begins at 7 a.m. with package pickup and pre-race registrations. The first event of the morning starts at 8:35 a.m. with the One-Mile Mini-Breeze for the young ones, followed by the One-Mile Dog Walk. The Mini-Breeze course is laid out around the perimeter of Brookline Park. Then, at 9:00am, it's time for the main event, the 5K run/walk. Anyone interested in participating can visit http://www.brooklinebreeze.com/ for more information.
Following the race is the annual BreezeFest along Brookline Boulevard, running from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., organized by the Brookline Chamber of Commerce. Breezefest features food, children’s activities, live music, and arts and crafts and sidewalk sales. For more information on Breezefest please visit www.brooklinenow.com.
VFW Ziti Dinner
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 418 in McKees Rocks is hosting a Ziti dinner this Sunday, August 5 to raise money for VFW Veterans banners for Veterans killed in action. The dinner is being held at the VFW Post 418, located at 1242 Chartiers Avenue in McKees Rocks from noon – 7 p.m. For information on tickets please contact Chas Martiz at 412-771-7034 or 412-722-8723.
It was this day 30 years ago that former Pittsburgh Pirate Willie Stargell became the 200th man inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame. Stargell played for the Pirates for 21 seasons (1962-1982) and remains the club’s all-time leader in home runs (475) and runs batted in (1,540) and played on championship teams in 1971 and 1979.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
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Harrisburg, PA 17120
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Pittsburgh, PA 15216